The History of Interior Design

It is hard to imagine a cave living family flipping through an interior design magazine or trying out paint test pots on the cave walls, yet they would have spent as much time as we do today in decorating their surroundings. Imagine the arguments over where the hunting trip cave painting was to be located!

There is overwhelming evidence that decoration has been important to people from ancient times. Many people are exponents of function and not form, yet the history of interior design is not about fripperies of little consequence, it is an important part of historical records, as valid as any major archaeological find. The history of interior design tells the story of how people lived, what techniques and methods they used for colours and textiles and the skills used to manufacture the elaborate and the everyday objects that made up a home.

In ancient Greek homes for example, while there was usually a slave or two in the most modest terraced house, household decoration was important and each home had vases with paintings, vessels for carrying water and fabric made by the women of the house. The reconstruction of the palace at Knossos in Greece shows clearly that the Minoans had painters and decorators, artists and artisans. The dreamy Mediterranean tones we all love were in fact vibrant bold colours at one time, kept up and painted and very different from the faded colours we associate with that part of the world. Interior design history is fascinating and a treasure trove of ideas.


Style and aesthetics were important to these people and evidence shows interior design was elaborate and luxurious meaning it was limited to the wealthy in society.

The lavishness of the Egyptians is well known to us from the excavated tombs and remnants of the great palaces. The incredibly preserved artefacts from Egyptian tombs give us a proper look at the Egyptian home as everything that was required for life was provided in death in the tombs of the more wealthy in the population.

The Romans left a legacy of careful planning taking the use of the room into account. This comes forward into modern interior design and takes into account every aspect of comfortable living. Fabulous mosaics and marble statues and sculptures are typical of Roman design. As engineers and architects, they were unrivalled. Wealthy Romans had living rooms for summer and winter seasons and while not as extravagant as the Egyptians, interior design is in highly important


A major shift in interior design occurred during the Italian Renaissance. It was an explosion in all of the arts, which were supported by wealthy patrons. The décor and design during this era is much closer to what we know from later years in interior design chronology. Instead of form or function, design considered both and rooms were not just showcases of extreme wealth and glorious colour but had a purpose as well. Great paintings, sculptures, wall coverings, and furnishings from this era are the heritage of much modern design. During this period, some of the most prominent examples of Renaissance interior design evolved. Versailles known for its royal decadence was one such place. During this period, design and art for art sake was still the domain of the wealthy.


The massive transformation in the history of interior design that made it accessible to everyone was the Industrial Revolution. Mass made products were cheap and this made it possible for the less wealthy to decorate their homes. The increase in available goods at affordable prices made choice an option for everyone and interior design became in a way something the average homeowner could achieve. The magazines and papers of the day, photography and the great exhibitions made it possible to have a parlour that was a little bit regal and filled with objects for design sake not practicality. Naturally, costly fabrics and commissioned furniture and extravagant hand crafted pieces was still only for the wealthy, but reproduction furnishings made their way into the market place.

During this era, the first magazines for interior design came into fashion and the interior design industry was born on a grand scale particularly in America but soon followed in the UK

The interior design history of the world has been formed through centuries by technological, artistic, and economic revolutions creating a fascinating history of how people lived.

Today we continue this tradition at My Interior Design School and are proud to offer our courses that allow anyone to learn how to make the most of their homes or to pursue a career in interiors.

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